It was the right of those who felt the need to challenge the Constitution of Guyana and exercise their will in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to seek to have former president Bharrat Jagdeo serve a third term in office outside of the constitutional framework. It is not the right to test that is wrong but the issue that was brought before the Court failed the test of law.
This issue of a third-term as President of the Cooperative Republic has occupied tremendous time and much energy of the people- on both sides of the political divide- given what it was felt to mean or hoping to achieve. And this atmosphere has not been without rancour, boast and trepidation of what it could mean if the ruling goes one way or the other.
That being said, the ruling yesterday of the CCJ to uphold the Constitution of Guyana sends a signal to all countries of the Caribbean, all peoples of the Caribbean, that their respective constitution will be upheld by this highest decision-making forum of justice in the Region. For Guyanese it brings hope and a sense of validation that the Constitution sets no one above the law, and everyone can be held similarly accountable to this instrument.
Even as we mull the CCJ’s ruling we must also pay cognisance to Article 90 Clause 2(a) that a person elected as president after the year 2000 “is eligible for re-election only once” and at Clause (3) that a person who acceded to the presidency after the year 2000 and served therein on a single occasion for not less than such period as may be determined by the National Assembly “is eligible for election as president only once.” In so far as National/General Elections apply to the entire List of Representatives which is considered being elected, it means that anyone not satisfying the aforesaid and other presidential requirements would be ineligible.
The CCJ’s decision also brings attention to the importance of giving our Constitution the rightful respect it deserves. What this decision also reinforces is the importance of pursuing public education and awareness that would bring about compliance and enforcement.
The two-term limit broadens the spectrum for more Guyanese participating at this level of decision-making and said office. It is hoped members of the respective political parties and people of Guyana will see this as a positive sign for our fledgling democracy, and be encouraged to further activities to deepen and strengthen our various rules and laws to give more meaning to our Constitution. All Guyanese are encouraged to be vigilant in protecting and defending these values.
The best test of the Constitution is the court of law. Many of those who have advocated for constitutional change/reform or disregard have not put it to the test, and the few times it has been tested, the Constitution has proven its worth.
The Constitution rules without fear or favour. Persons may not like the decision, particularly when it goes against them. No decision of the court has ever pleased 100 percent of the people but the Rule of Law must prevail.